Preparing to Go Off Campus
WPI travelers must take an active role in addressing administrative, health and safety concerns inherent to international travel. If you are planning a trip abroad, recognize that certain regions require special considerations due to political, cultural, legal or health-related reasons. Your careful review and consideration of the current state of your travel destination(s) is critical to your trip’s success. If you have any health and safety questions please contact us.
Is your trip WPI-Sponsored Travel?
WPI-Sponsored travel means all international travel by WPI students, faculty, and staff that is part of academic, scholarly, or business work at WPI. Such travel may include, but is not limited to travel for: teaching, research, academic study, attendance at a conference, official global project programs, internships, volunteer or work programs and other experiential learning, field studies, performances, athletic contests, trips abroad in connection with a WPI-recognized student organization, academic or administrative unit, and travel funded by a grant, foundation, company, or other university.
Register Your Trip
Registering your WPI-Sponsored trip keeps you connected to WPI resources in the event of an emergency and pre-authorizes your medical insurance coverage.
MyTrips is WPI's International Travel Registry system. All the information on how to register is available on this site. If, however, you have a team or department that would like to be trained on MyTrips we can also come to you. Please contact us to schedule a training.
REMINDER: It is mandatory for all WPI students, faculty and staff on WPI-Sponsored trips to register their international travel.
Learn about your International SOS membership
Students, faculty and staff traveling on WPI-Sponsored trips are members of International SOS, which includes travel medical insurance.
International SOS (ISOS)* membership includes:
- 24/7 medical and security consultation
- Hospital referrals
- Travel medical insurance
- Emergency evacuation assistance
- Emotional Support
*In order to be pre-authorized to use International SOS, travelers must register their trip.
For information on the services provided by International SOS and for information on WPI's international travel medical insurance please visit International S0S: 24/7 Travel Assistance.
If you have questions about International SOS membership, please contact us.
Get Informed & Be Prepared
- Get informed about your destination at travel.state.gov/destination, and plan for the unexpected at travel.state.gov/crisis
- Get required documents such as your passport and visa. Is your passport valid for the duration of your trip and does your destination country require your passport to be valid for a set period beyond your trip end date.
- Get enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrolled Program (STEP) at step.state.gov to receive security and emergency alerts. Note: For GPP participants this process will be done for you.
- Get insured: While WPI will provide medical, evacuation insurance for those traveling on WPI-Sponsored international travel, but consider purchasing trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance.
- Learn how to utilize the services of International SOS.
- Make a copy of your passport and visa and send it to someone you trust.
Travel Health & Safety Tips
Research your Destination and Stay Informed
It's important to thoroughly research your destination before you travel:
- International SOS has security reports for your destination and their experts can give you advice relating to your health, safety, and security. Call their 24/7 Scholastic Assistance Line at 1-215-942-8478, access their web-portal, and download their app.
- U.S. Department of State (DoS) Travel Website. This website contains links for information regarding passports and visas, specific countries, travel tips, emergency information, and more.
- DoS Traveler’s Checklist Website. This website provides more concise information regarding preparing to travel overseas. It is reachable from the Travel website above.
- DoS Country Specific Information Website. This U.S. government website contains specific information for every country.
- DoS Travel to High Risk Areas Website. This U.S. government website provides ideas related to remaining safe while traveling to areas of higher risk. International Safety and Security recommends reviewing the Further Readings section at the bottom of the website for ways to reduce susceptibility to crime.
- Centers for Disease Control Traveler’s Health Website. This U.S. government website provides information related to vaccines, medicines, and general advice on health while traveling.
- The TravWell App can be beneficial for understanding country requirements.
- U.S. Dept of Treasury Export Control Sanctions and Country Information
- United Kingdom Foreign Travel Advice Website. This U.K. government website provides specific travel information for countries. Similar to the U.S. Department of State website, we encourage travelers to consult this website as a means to be more informed. Other similar websites include the Australian Government Smart Traveler Website and the Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories Website.
- The American Red Cross Website provides a number of Apps for Apple and Android phones that may be helpful in the event of an emergency.
- U.S. Department of State Students Abroad provides useful, easy-to-access information for students from the U.S. traveling abroad.
- Find out where your home country’s closest embassy/consulate is located.
- U.S. citizens: U.S. State Department
- Non-U.S. citizens: please check with your nationality’s foreign affairs ministry or State Department-equivalent
- Become familiar with U.S. State Department Services for U.S. citizens.
- More Reading About Safe Travel Abroad
- It is important to remain informed during travel. The best method to do so is registering in the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
- Always be alert within your environment and public places
- Develop a buddy system with your classmates
- Report and know how to report suspicious activity
- If you are approached by a stranger, exercise caution. If they engage you in a way that feel unusual or off-putting, extract yourself from the situation and do not worry about being rude. Report what happened to your program director or a trusted local contact.
- Limit time spent at popular tourist sites, crowded public areas, or high profile events
- Reduce location identifiers on social media
- Walk where there is a barrier present between traffic and pedestrians when possible
- Avoid traveling alone especially at night
- Do not wear expensive clothes, jewelry or carry expensive luggage
- Avoid arriving late at night in cities with which you are not familiar
- Stay on well-lit, heavily-traveled streets
- Avoid shortcuts through alleys and walking close to the street or buildings
- Walk against the flow of traffic so you are aware of oncoming vehicles
- Whenever possible, speak the local language
- Be aware of pickpockets, especially in large cities
- If you are the victim of a robbery, do not resist or try to confront the person afterward. Report what happened to your program director or a trusted local contact.
- Never leave your belongings unattended
- Be aware of local customs and traditions
- Keep up with local news
- Familiarize yourself with the city and the neighborhood. Avoid relying on your cellphone for navigation (it makes it obvious you are a tourist!)
- If you encounter a corrupt police officer requesting payment for an unjustified fine, remain patient and friendly. Keep a consistent reason as to why you cannot pay the fine. If the officer doesn't relent, request to speak to their superior officer.
- Do not misuse alcohol and abide by WPI's zero-tolerance drug use policy. Consuming mind-altering substances in a foreign environment can be dangerous.
- Never accept a drink from a stranger or leave a drink unattended.
- Do not participate in any demonstrations and protests. Even those with peaceful intentions may become unsafe and/or involve negative confrontations with local law enforcement. If you are accidentally caught up in a demonstration, leave the area as soon as it is safe to do so
Content Acknowledgment - With thanks to MSU Office of International Health and Safety
Consider the potential BENEFITS OF TRAVELING 'GRAY'
General Safety Information
- Fire Safety Checklist for Students
- College Campus Fire Safety Tips
- Plan to Survive: What to Do in a Fire
- Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Tips
Travelers should exercise extreme caution when swimming abroad and/or in unfamiliar destinations. Heed all warning signs/flags, do not swim where no lifeguards are present, do not swim alone and be clear about your swimming abilities. For more information please review the following resources to help you have a safe experience off campus.
- Water Safety Abroad (CDC)
- American Red Cross Water Safety Tips
- Rip Currents (United States Lifesaving Association)
Global Experience Office does not endorse using shared economy resources; Before arrangements are made, travelers should conduct extensive research for themselves and make informed decisions.
- Transportation Considerations
- Never take a ride if you are uncomfortable with the driver or vehicle. Your safety comes first. Always trust your instincts.
- Arrange for pickup in a public location. Some services allow you to share your plans with contacts; if so, let others know your arrangements.
- Take advantage of safety features that allow you to identify the driver and vehicle before arrival. Verify that information when the vehicle arrives (license plate, type of vehicle). If available, track vehicle progress and estimated arrival to your location.
- While driving to your location, monitor the route that is being taken against the suggested route.
With thanks to MSU Office of International Health and Safety and University of Illinois International Safety and Security Office.
Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
Please consult the following resources:
- WPI's Title IX webpage
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) (This U.S.based service has limited ability abroad.)
- International SOS WPI Portal
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Pathways to Safety International (Sexual Assault Support & Help for American Abroad): firstname.lastname@example.org - Email address but currently no phone number (email will be responded to within 72 hours)
Traveling Abroad with Electronics and Phones
- Awareness. The first step is to simply be aware that additional threats may exist abroad. Knowing that travelers often use public wireless (Wi-Fi) connections, criminal and occasionally government organizations may seek to gain access to IT products.
- Anti-Virus and Program Updates. Travelers should ensure that they have installed the latest update from their provider.
- Download a VPN.
- Download Relevant Documents. Bandwidth and/or a strong internet connection may be limited in your destination country. Be sure to download all relevant documents prior to departure.
- Passwords. Consider changing your passwords before travel using the strongest ones possible, including capital and small letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Log-In Password. If you do not already use them, create passwords to log into your computer, tablet, or other devices.
- Travel Light. Consider limiting devices to those that you really need; if you require your laptop for a presentation, forego bringing your tablet as well.
- Turn Wi-Fi Off. Monitor your connection to networks. One way to do this is to turn your Wi-Fi off when not in use. When you need access, turn it on and manually select which network you will join.
- Shared Computers. If using a shared computer (internet café, computer lab, etc.), do not log into secure sites requiring your password (bank, credit card, etc.).
- Change Passwords. If you believe your password has been compromised, immediately change your password.
- Use Secure Networks. When logging into websites that should be secure, ensure that you see httpS:// in the address instead of http://.
- Pop-Ups and Links. Be careful of clicking on pop-ups when using hotel networks. They may be used to download malicious software.
- Physical Control. Whenever possible, keep your IT devices with you to avoid physical compromise of your devices.
- Change Passwords.
- Update Anti-Virus.
- Inform IT. If you traveled with a University device and believe it may have been compromised or it is not operating normally, please inform IT.
Much of this information was developed using the guidance provided by the Overseas Security Advisory Council's “Quick Guide on Best Practices.”
With thanks to University of Illinois International Safety and Security Office
- REN-ISAC Cyber Security checklist for International Travel
- How to Call Abroad (international Calling made easy)
- Country Calling Codes (another site for international calling)
- OSAC Best Practices while Traveling with Mobile Devices
Natural Disaster Preparedness and Action
Medications, Allergies and Immunizations
- Contact The WPI Student Health Center or International SOS for advice on immunizations relating to international travel.
- Review information available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Do not assume your medications will be available or legal in your destination country. If you take prescription medication, reach out to the Global Experience Office, and/or International SOS, the Student Health Center & SDCC to discuss the legality and availability of your prescription in your destination country.
- For information about traveling with medication consult the following webpages:
- If you are traveling with medication or medical devices, for example, syringes or medication that must be refrigerated, review the Transportation Security Administration guidance for passing through airport security.
- If you have significant food allergies, you may consider purchasing some translation cards for food and drug allergies, special diets, and medical needs
International SOS Medical Alerts and Consultations
International SOS provides medical and security assistance to WPI travelers.On the International SOS WPI Portal click on “current medical alerts” (left column) for the latest medical updates by country.
Contact International SOS at 215-942-8478 (WPI Member ID 11BCAS785861) to speak directly with a travel medical professional.
Mental Health Considerations
Before you Leave:
The SDCC staff and/or International SOS can advise you on managing any health conditions abroad. For example, some anxiety medications interact negatively with malaria-prevention medications and cause unintended side effects. Also, many medications commonly prescribed in the US for anxiety, depression, and ADHD cannot be legally brought into other countries. You'll need to discuss alternatives with your physician well in advance of travel.
Please visit the Your Health Abroad page on the U.S. Department of State website for additional information.
If you're not sure if you're experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition, you can take advantage of free counseling services available through International SOS.
For an overview of what can and can't be taken on board or checked, here is the TSA's list of prohibited items: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/prohibited-items (Links to an external site.)
For a breakdown of what qualifies as hazardous materials, check the FAA site: https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/hazmat_safety . (Links to an external site.)
Student Abroad Pack-List: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/Packlist.pdf
Use this checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for your next trip. Make sure to bring items with you, since the quality of items bought overseas cannot be guaranteed. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart
GPP students: Your site specific handbook will also include items that may be suggested for your particular Project Center location.
Sample first aid kit:
|Motion sickness pills||Band-Aids|
|Nail clippers||Ibuprofen (Advil) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol)|
|Antibiotics (prescribed by doctor)||Anti-diarrheal (e.g., Imodium, Pepto Bismol)|
|Laxatives||Oral rehydration salts, electrolyte mixes|
|Power bars/granola bars|
Communication: Cell Phones
All Travelers: Must be contactable by mobile phone or other communication devices for WPI to ensure traveler's safety and prompt incident response from International SOS.
- Students are required to obtain a cell phone with a local number while abroad. If your US cell phone allows, you can purchase a sim card while abroad to place in your US cell phone which will provide you with a local number and allow you to use a local plan. Another option is to purchase a low-cost pay-as-you-go cell phone once on-site.
- Your local cell phone will be used by your sponsor, advisor, or fellow students to contact you while on-site, and must be able to do so on a local phone number. Communication services that use Wi-Fi, such as WhatsApp may also be used to contact your family while abroad.
- Students must keep their cell phone charged at all times. It is important to save the phone numbers of your advisors, sponsor, roommates, local emergency numbers, and the GEO emergency number stored in your phone.
Ask your carrier about international data and calling and ensure your cellphone is unlocked prior to departure.
Supporting Diversity Off Campus
Global Experience Office recognizes that different aspects of your identity may impact your experience abroad. We encourage all travelers to reflect on the different aspects of their identity when preparing for travel abroad.
How you identify in the United States may not be how you choose to identify abroad and may not be how you are identified by your destination country. We encourage all travelers to research your destination country’s history, culture, laws, and demographics.
''When you go abroad, it's inevitable to find yourself in a conversation with someone whose opinions vary greatly from yours.'' Read this helpful article from Diversity Abroad on how to engage in challenging conversations while abroad.
Please consult the following resources as you consider and prepare for your experience off campus.
LGBTQIA+ travelers: You can enhance the safety and comfort of your travel experience by considering how the laws, culture, and social norms of your destination may affect your experience. Don't hesitate to contact us with questions.
RESEARCH the LGBTQIA+ climate of your host country. Explore different resources such as newspapers, LGBTQIA+friendly travel guides, and e-magazines to gain a better understanding of what the social perception is of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Review the U.S. Department of State's country information pages for current and up to date information specific to LGBTQIA+ travelers (under Local Laws & Special Circumstances) and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details, as well as crowdsourced information such Equaldex.
TALK with other LGBTQIA+ and allied people about their experiences in specific countries or regions.
UNDERSTAND the context, customs, laws and attitudes in your host country. Similar expressions or behaviors may have vastly different meanings in different places. In some locations open expressions of your sexual orientation might be criticized.
Keep in mind that once outside the United States you are no longer protected by U.S. laws. If same-sex acts are illegal in your host country and you are caught engaging in them, or presumed to have engaged in them, you could be arrested and imprisoned in that country.
It is important to reflect on the culturally based ideas and definitions of sexual identity and consider carefully how your identity as a LGBTQIA+ person may affect your relationships with host country nationals, your cultural adjustment, and your overall off campus experience.
Questions for LGBTQIA+ Travelers to Consider
- How open will I be about my sexual orientation and gender identity with my advisors, peers, friends, and others?
- How important is it to me to find other LGBTQIA+ travelers and friends while abroad? How will I make connections with LGBTQIA+ students, colleagues, local residents, or community organizations? What are my expectations about seeking and finding community?
- Will I need access to any medications, supplies, or services due to my transgender status? Are they available in my host country? If not, will I need any additional documentation to travel with my medication or supplies?
- What are my safety needs and perceptions, and how can they best be met? Is the program able to make accommodations for students who request single rooms, private baths, or specific roommates?
- What resources are available in my host country for LGBTQIA+ people?
About the Culture of Your Host Country:
- What are the cultural attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity in my host country?
- What are considered typical male and female social behaviors, customary gender relations, and social patterns in the host country?
- What may make the coming out process different in the host country compared to the U.S.?
- What are the norms and behavioral expectations within LGBTQIA+ communities in my host country?
- What is the social perception of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in my host country? How are LGBTQIA+ people socially defined? What roles do transgender people play in the host culture?
About Your Host Country's Laws:
- Are there "public indecency/decency" laws? Or any laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relationships, or ways men and women socially interact?
- What is the age of consent? Does it differ for heterosexual versus same-sex couples?
- Does the law require having "proper documentation" at all times?
- What is the general police attitude toward the local LGBTQIA+ community?
- Is the law applied the same in rural areas as in urban areas?
About Perceptions of People from the U.S and LGBTQIA+ People:
- What's the attitude of local residents toward people from the U.S., people of other nationalities, "tourists," and LGBTQIA+ "tourists"?
- What's the general police attitude towards the same as above?
- What's the general police attitude toward LGBTQIA+ people who are visiting the country?
Tips to keep in mind
- If you experience difficulties, don’t be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. They are available 24/7 at every embassy who provide emergency assistance to Americans. They won’t pass judgment on you and will protect your privacy.
- Be alert and try to avoid potentially unsafe environments. Look out for yourself and your friends, especially late at night.
- Use discretion. As an American, you may already stand out. Outside gay neighborhoods or resorts, public displays of affection may draw even more attention.
- Be wary of entrapment campaigns, where law enforcement officers pose as a potential partner to lure LGBTQIA+ people into outing themselves. Entrapment campaigns typically occur via social media, chat rooms, and dating apps, where law enforcement agents create fake accounts to gather information on LGBTQIA+ people in countries with anti-homosexuality laws.
Housing: WPI houses off-campus program participants in a variety of accommodations. Most students live in self-catered apartments, some are in residence halls, and others are in houses. Be sure that you research housing options will make you comfortable. You can find more details on eProjects and contact Global Experience Office via phone (508-831-4804) or email (email@example.com) to review questions or set up an appointment to discuss your options.
With thanks to ASU Study Abroad and MSU Office of International Health and Safety for content and layout.
Disclaimer: Global Experience Office provides the following links for informational purposes only. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in the linked websites and do not specifically endorse any organization, information, or products associated with those websites. We encourage travelers to consult multiple sources to make informed decisions.
LGBT Rights Around the World - an interactive map from TheGuardian.com of the legal rights of people in the LGBTQIA community
Students with Disabilities
Academic Accommodations: Students with different physical, mental, and/or behavioral abilities who may need academic accommodations as part of the Global Projects Program (GPP) are strongly encouraged to speak with ID2050 instructors and/or project advisors at the start of the prep term to discuss supports they may need to be successful. Due to the unique nature of project and group-based work, typical academic accommodations as listed on an accommodation letter may not always directly apply to your project experience. However, discussing your learning style, potential accommodation needs, and any questions and/or concerns with your professors and advisors at the start of the program can be an important step to ensuring a positive project experience.
To begin the disclosure process and facilitate a conversation with your faculty, you can submit your accommodation letters approved through the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) student portal. If you need assistance, please contact the OAS.
If you have not previously disclosed a disability to the OAS, but think you may need academic accommodations, we encourage you to begin the intake process as detailed on the OAS website. If you need any assistance through the process, the OAS is available to assist via phone (508-831-4908), (firstname.lastname@example.org), or in person at 124 Daniels Hall.
Accommodated Housing and/or Onsite Arrangements: Students with a documented need who may require onsite arrangements, including, but not limited to housing or transportation accommodations are strongly encouraged to contact GEO immediately following placement to discuss supports available onsite. If disclosure happens closer to departure, we will make our best effort to accommodate, however, accommodations may not be guaranteed.
You can contact Global Experience Office via phone (508-831-4804) or email (email@example.com) to set up an appointment.
Please note that there is a difference between documented housing accommodations and housing preferences. If you have not previously disclosed a disability to the OAS, but think you may need accommodations, we encourage you to begin the intake process as detailed on the OAS website. If you need any assistance through the process, the OAS is available to assist via phone (508-831-4908), (firstname.lastname@example.org), or in person at 124 Daniels Hall.
Racial & Ethnically Diverse Students
Questions you may want to consider, research and ask about
- What are the cultural norms of my host country?
- Will I experience discrimination in the country I study in? Who can I contact if I do?
- How is my ethnic group perceived in my host country? What kind of stereotypes are there?
- How should I react if I find something to be offensive?
- Is the person curious or do they have bad intentions?
- Am I used to being part of the majority at home but will be a minority abroad? Or vice versa?
- Will there be other minority students in my program?
- Who should I contact if I do face racial or discriminatory incidents?
- Will my advisors and the Global Experience Office staff understand and help me through any racial or discriminatory incident I may face?
Content adopted from Diversity Abroad and ASU's Study Abroad Office.
Resources for more information
- Multicultural Affairs
- OASIS Cultural Center
- All Abroad.us
- Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Abroad - a helpful list of tips and must-ask questions for racial and ethnic minority students from Diversity Abroad
- Project for Learning Abroad, Training and Outreach (PLATO) - resources and scholarship opportunities meant to encourage and support study abroad among minority students
- Top 10 Reasons for African American Students to Go Abroad- some things to consider from Transitions Abroad
- Being Black in an African Country — an article by an ASU student on her experience in Morocco, sharing how she turned a harsh reality into a positive experience
- My Very Personal Taste of Racism Abroad - a New York Times essay from an African-American woman who had an eye-opening experience due to a series of troubling racial encounters while studying abroad in Italy
- 10 Reasons for Hispanic-American Students to Study Abroad- Article from the Hispanic Network
- 7 Study Abroad Scholarships for Hispanic Students- GoAbroad Article
- My Study Abroad Experience as a First-Generation Mexican-American- Article by ISA Today
- Native American Students Abroad- A resource page from the State University of New York
- Asian American/Pacific Islander Students Abroad- A resource page from the State University of New York
As you browse program options, please consider the items and resources below.